Wilkie Collins and Physiology

Before I go to sleep in the evening I like to read for twenty or thirty minutes with a hot drink – probably a sign of growing old.

I usually read stuff I find entertaining and relaxing rather than serious stuff and currently I’m reading Wilkie Collins Moonstone – google for it if you’re interested, it’s on Gutenberg with synopsis in Wikipedia.

It’s a long complex epistolatory novel, ie one in which lots of individual narratives combine to make one story – a bit like The Bridge or the Killing if you like Scandi-noir TV.

The plot is actually quite fantastical, but as with all good writing, the story, not to mention Wilkie Collins’ often highly humorous turns of phrase, carry you forward.

What I also found interesting was the way that Wilkie Collins brings in what was then a very early understanding of biopsychology and physiology to legitimise the slightly improbable end of the story, in much the same way as Bram Stoker referred to the use of  typewriters and Kodak cameras in Dracula to give an air of scientific modernity to the investigation of the mystery.

What’s of course interesting is, for this literary device to work, Wilkie Collins must be drawing on what was then common knowledge in his readership and thus implies a degree of scientific curiosity among his readers, which is not perhaps what we first think of when we think of the early 1860’s …

Written with StackEdit.

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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